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The colony of British West Florida included the Dothan region between 1763-1783.
Nine families moved to the area in the early 1830s to take advantage of the plentiful timber. Poplar Head, the name of their settlement after the spring, did not prosper. The Civil War saw it almost abandoned. The Pony Express route to the local area was established after the war. This, along with other developments made during the Reconstruction Era helped the town grow. After discovering that Poplar Head was already registered as a U.S. postal address for a northern Alabama town, Dothan was voted into incorporation.
Dothan witnessed a bloody altercation on October 12, 1889. It was the result of a dispute about a tax levied upon wagons that were operating within its limits. The levy was opposed by local farmers who formed a group called the "Farmers Alliance". Two men were killed and many others were seriously injured when some members of the alliance were arrested. Tobe Domingus, the Chief of Police, was found guilty and sentenced to ten years. An appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court led to a new trial and Domingus was acquitted.
The city saw financial success when peanut production was started by farmers. It was a major hub for peanut production and transportation. Today, Dothan is home to 25% of the U.S. peanut crop.
Between 1970 and 1981, the Southern Company built the Joseph M. Farley Nuclear Generating Station close to the city. This 1,776-megawatt facility generates approximately 13,000 gigawatts per annum.